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In the Motohead of Grant Langston

Grant Langston

A throwback interview we did with former world champ Grant Langston back in 2016 who still loves to ride.

South African Grant Langston is one of a select list of riders including Jean-Michel Bayle and Ken Roczen to have won titles in the world championship, American supercross and US Nationals. Riding a factory KTM, Langston took on the world and won the world championship on 125 in the year 2000 then moved Stateside to take on the very best over there at motocross and Supercross.

A broken wheel at the final round of the 2001 US 125 Nationals robbed him of that title, but he did go on to win KTM’s first US National championship in 2003 on his beloved 125.

After a series of injures, he was picked up by Mitch Payton’s Pro Circuit Kawasaki team in 2005 and won the East Coast Supercross title followed by the West Coast title a year later.

Moving to Yamaha for 2007 on a 450, Langston struggled in Supercross but won the 450 outdoor title before he was diagnosed with a tumour in his eye. He battled back and raced again, but eventually retired in 2010. Now he runs several companies including a large multi-franchise motorcycle dealership in his adopted California home, and is a TV commentator for the US Nationals.

Still riding for fun, we caught up with the 35-year-old on a 1989 Kawasaki KX500 riding for Team South Africa in the Vets Motocross des Nations at Farleigh Castle to see what goes in inside his MotoHead.

Grant Langston urges on his Yamaha YZF450 at the Hangtown national opener in 2010 – his last full season

What was your first bike?  A Honda QR50 – 1985 model

Why did you start riding? My dad raced but that didn’t really have too much to do with it. One of his friends had a bike for his kid but he’d fallen off it and was scared, so wanted nothing to do with it. I begged to ride it and eventually I rode it and gravitated towards it immediately. I begged my dad to buy me that bike! I didn’t realize at the time it was a piece of junk but to me it was a motorbike. It was the best thing ever. It started there and escalated!

When and where was your first race? It was at a place called NMCC – the Natal Motorcycle and Car Club. They had a clubhouse that had a PeeWee track in the back yard that was so small it could fit under the awning of a modern race truck! I raced and got lapped!

Have you ever had a job? A real job? We have our own company and I work in my own business. But I guess TV commentating is a real job!

Could you change a piston? No! Not even close!

Grant Langston gets his weight well back at the Paris Supercross in 2003. Photo Alex Hodgkinson/ KTM Images

If you could have one of your old bikes back, which would it be? My 2000 world championship bike. It’s the only one of my old bikes that I don’t have.

Who’s the best rider you ever saw? Ricky Carmichael. If you talk about dominating and his experience, yes. But I still think Jeam-Michel Bayle was the most beautiful rider to watch!

What’s the best track in the world? My first experience overseas was in 1995 at the British schoolboy championship at Desertmartin in Northern Ireland and I thought that track was so cool! I’ve never been back but I just remember it was like nothing I’d ever seen before. It’s always stuck in my mind as an amazing place. I should go again!

What do you look for in a bike? Nowadays an electric start so I don’t have to kick it! Something that is fun, low maintenance and easy to ride. So for me right now that’s a KTM 450 that I ride at home. It has electric start and is loads of fun. I have my own dealership in Southern California close to Temecula and we sell Kawasaki, Suzuki, Yamaha, KTM and Polaris.

Team Langston enjoying the rainy Vets Nations at Farleigh Castle!

What’s the best bit of motocross-related advice you’ve ever been given? Don’t let whatever anyone else is saying or doing get to you. It’s so easy to get flustered if you hear this guy has changed to this tyre or is doing something different to you. My dad always said you know what you’re doing, so stick with it. Be confident, stay doing what you do and if you have a plan, stick with it!

What’s your greatest motocross memory? The GP in Finland in 2000. It was a day I dominated – a perfect day and I wrapped up the world championship as well. One of those days like a storybook! I was by far the fastest in both practices, qualifying and morning warm-up and dominated both races. It was one of those days that was surreal.

What are the keys to your success? Heart and determination!

Langston won the US 450 title for Yamaha

Describe your perfect day? Usually it would be sunny! Just being around friends and family – wherever that may be usually means we can be somewhere to do something that’s fun. Whether that’s being at the beach or going out to dinner, at the track – being around people I’m familiar with as I like to laugh! And often it would involve motorcycles. Like here at Farleigh, my mum is here and my girlfriend who has never seen me race! My mum hasn’t seen me race in a long time. And my dad and I travelled Europe doing GPs so to come back is fun. It’s a family thing – the racing isn’t serious for me at all. I’m here for the experience, to mingle and hang out, seeing some old faces, meeting some fans. It makes everything worthwhile and enjoyable!

Do you have a Plan B when you stop being involved with racing? I’ve got my fingers in a few things. I do my TV commentary in the States for a variety of forms of motor racing, not just motocross although it is the predominant one. I run an international distribution firm in South Africa where we import and distribute things. I have a partner who runs things from that side and I do it from the States. I have a training facility – like a gym but a bit more high tech where we train athletes. It used to be called the Rockwell Training Facility. It’s now called The W. A lot of top athletes train there from lots of different sports.

No62 Grant Langston launches off the Farleigh VMXdN start line next to No5 John Down, No10 David Cools and No2 Kurt Nicoll with ex-world champ No3 Jamie Dobb partly obscured

Have you ever been in a fight? Yes! The last time was I high school. I was in sixth to eighth grade and was a bit of the baby of the class. Because of motocross I had some friends that rode who were older, so I had people on my side! This one guy was pissed off because a chick he was into really liked me. And it got to the point where he confronted me, shoved me off my feet and I hit him so hard with a left hook that I knocked him out cold!

What’s the biggest myth about your job? That it’s always glamorous!

What do you drive? A Dodge Ram 1500 Sport

When were you happiest? That’s a deep one! As crazy as it sounds, maybe right now! Obviously I don’t want it to happen but if I was to pass away today, at least I’d be able to say that I had a hell of a 35 years. I’ve had experiences that people can only dream of. When I look back and soak it all up, I have a healthy family, lots of friends, different business and I’m pretty stable. I’ve learned money doesn’t always make you happy. What makes you happy is getting up and being able to walk around with a smile on your face and I do that on a daily basis.

That winning feeling at the Paris Supercross alongside Andrew Short and David Vuillemin. Photo Alex Hodgkinson/ KTM Images

What is your greatest fear? Death!

What’s your most embarrassing moment? In racing-related stuff it’s when I threw my first Supercross win away in 2001 at Houston. I came over the triple, whipped it out and waved to the crowd, landed and crashed off the next jump into the last corner. I crashed pretty hard and the bike was all mangled up so I didn’t even finish on the podium. Embarrassing but more frustrating

What is your guiltiest pleasure? Drinking! When I raced I was always focused but now I don’t I’m a socialiser and enjoy a coupe of beverages with my mates.

Is there anyone you’d like to say sorry to, and why? I was thinking about this the other day! There was one of my friends at school.  When I was about 11 or 12 I went through this stage where any time there was a disagreement you’d want to punch a friend and I think I hit him a couple of times. He was actually a really nice guy and never fought back, and we’ve lost contact over the years. I’d like to say sorry for being a dick!

Flying high at Hangtown in Langston’s swansong series

Who or what is the greatest love of your life? My family. I have a very close relationship with pretty much everyone in my family. And I’m the only one who gets along with everybody! We have a pretty close family but I’m the only one who’s tight with everyone.

How do you relax? Having a few beverages with family and friends. I like to relax by doing things – going to the track or the beach. The California life! With kids now, they’re always up for doing something. I’m not a stressful person. So as long as it’s not hectic or stressful, I’m all for it!

If you could go back in time and give your younger self some advice, what would it be? Don’t try to be a hero – let those injuries heal! Everyone thinks you’re a hero if you try to come back from an injury sooner than you should. Now I’m 35 I feel like I have the body of a 60 year old! The heart of 15 year old, though! And maybe don’t try to whip at that Houston Supercross!

Blasting through the British mire at Farleigh Castle

Original content from MotoHead Issue 1 – November 2016

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